Aubrey Plaza’s deadpan stare, already a giveaway of ulterior motives (if not appetites), makes her perfect to play this film’s girlfriend turned zombie. While we don’t see her death during the solo mountain hike that starts the movie, it’s only a matter of time postfuneral before she reappears, slightly dazed and in need of a bath. Life After Beth, from an original script by debuting director Jeff Baena, never quite works as the romantic comedy it thinks it is—it shifts too quickly into ick, then yeesh and yikes. But there’s a subtle intelligence to Plaza’s performance, as her mind starts spiraling toward one-track blood lust. Maybe all relationships involve a little biting.
Saving the movie from unflattering comparisons to Shaun of the Dead are the rest of Beth’s cast, particularly dutiful Dane DeHaan, juggling boyfriend frustrations with a palpable degree of compartmentalization. There’s social satire for those who want it—don’t tell the rest of the neighborhood our daughter’s risen from the dead!—and a fine, simmering sense of apocalypse that turns this suburban community into a war zone. Still, it’s a lot of heavy lifting for what amounts to “he’s just not that into you,” mainly because you’re as ripe as a cadaver.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf